Expect to have a range of intense feelings about the divorce. I find that many people minimize the level of intensity of feelings that it is common to experience during and after a divorce. Many will feel disillusioned, angry, ashamed, depressed, anxious, relieved, and more all at the same or different times. And, these experiences will often come in waves over a long period of time. So, taking care of yourself and accessing support is extremely important during this time to promote your healing and/or to enable you to be available for your children.
Give yourself room to cope and heal. Divorce is a major, major life event, and you will need to do your best to give yourself room to heal. It is okay to not be as productive with typical responsibilities, and it is definitely okay to ask for help!
Self care is a must. Taking care of your body, mind, and emotions is huge. These things may seem small but make a really big difference. Starting with getting sleep, eating well, exercising, engaging in hobbies and activities that make you feel competent, self soothing (such as hot bath, massage, any comforting activity). Minimize using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.
Don’t go through this alone. Reach out to your friends and family and talk through your feelings. Consider talking with a counselor or a support group of others who know what you are going through. Holding onto this by yourself can negatively impact you emotionally and physically.
Revisit hobbies and interests. This can be a great time to focus more on yourself and the activities that make you feel alive, competent, content, joyful, mindful, etc. Many of us lose ourselves in the ongoing challenges of relationships, so making sure you are engaging in activities you enjoy.
Avoid power struggles and arguments with your spouse or former spouse. If a discussion begins to turn into a fight, calmly suggest that you both try talking again later and either walk away or hang up the phone. Remember that the same challenges that you both struggled with in your relationship will continue to come up, so doing your best not to engage when things get heated can help. Also, if you are expecting to continue to co-parent, you may find it helpful to work with a couples therapist to find better ways to communicate and negotiate.
Work toward forgiveness. Anger and resentment you hold toward your former spouse only hurts you and potentially your children in the long run. You may also need to take time to forgive yourself for mistakes you have made.
Think positively. Easier said than done, right? However, keep in mind that what you focus on will grow. It will likely take time to readjust to this major life change, but finding new activities and friends, and moving forward with reasonable expectations will make this transition easier. Be flexible as you can. If you have children, family traditions will still be important but some of them may need to be adjusted. Help create new family activities.
Find patience. The process of a divorce really takes time, as well as the internal process of healing. Be aware that these big changes don’t happen overnight. Be patient with the external and internal process. And, even though it can feel like things will never be normal again, you will be able to find your footing and settle into daily life once again.
Choose to learn and grow from this experience. All of us have room for improvement, and there may be things your spouse did that make them seem like they are totally in the wrong, but we all could learn to be better partners, and maybe even to choose healthier partners. If you aren’t sure what you want to learn about yourself from the relationship, a counselor can likely help.